One of the nation's most pro-life governors is facing growing opposition from his own party — and some of that opposition has backed a pro-abortion candidate to replace him.
More than 100 self-described “moderate Republicans” have thrown their support behind a pro-abortion Democrat against an embattled pro-life Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, saying economic matters are of greater importance than abortion.
The 100 Republicans have endorsed Paul Davis, a supporter of abortion and the top Democrat in the state House. Critics have focused their ire on what they say is an irresponsible approach to the state budget — Brownback's tax cuts are being blamed for revenues that are $300 million below projections — as well as education budget cuts.
Brownback has a record of pro-life support going back more than a decade.
As Senator, Brownback supported overturning Roe v. Wade, and stood against taxpayer funding for abortion. In 2007, he voted in favor of an amendment that would have prevented federal grants from going to most organizations that conduct abortions for reasons other than to save the life of the mother.
During a brief campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Brownback accused candidate Mitt Romney of being soft on the issue of abortion.
Since entering the governor's office in January 2011, Brownback has worked to make Kansas the first state to defund Planned Parenthood, and has passed numerous other abortion restrictions. Among these restrictions are two that were signed just months after he entered the governor's mansion: A bill that limited abortions after 22 weeks' gestation because of fetal pain, and another that required consent from both parents before a minor could have an abortion. He also compared abortion to slavery in his 2014 “State of the State” address.
Davis, on the other hand, has a record of supporting pro-abortion legislation as a member of the State House. In 2007, he opposed a measure that would have made it a crime to harm an unborn child under certain circumstances, and defined an unborn child as a human from the point of conception. According to Vote Smart, the pro-life legislation passed the House with such overwhelming support that it was eventually signed by then-governor Kathleen Sebelius, a supporter of abortion.
Sebelius, who was the Obama cabinet secretary responsible for implementing the HHS Mandate of the Affordable Care Act, has joined Davis at least once on the campaign trail. Sebelius is a prominent Catholic supporter of abortion whose bishop has banned her from receiving Communion. As governor, Sebelius was closely associated with scandal related to abortion clinics in her state, and she vetoed a bill that would have limited late-term abortions in Kansas.
Davis also appears to disagree with Brownback on marriage. While the incumbent is a public supporter of marriage, Davis has been at odds with marriage groups in the past, such as when he voted against a bill earlier this year that would protect religious freedom by individuals, groups, and businesses. That bill passed the House, but was held up in the Senate. Brownback supported a similar bill in 2012.
Governor Brownback “has been the real deal, working to advance both economic and social conservatism,” Family Research Council Vice President of Government Affairs David Christensen told LifeSiteNews. “A number of the Republicans in Kansas attacking the governor are Republican-In-Name-Only, and it would be a huge mistake for the GOP to ignore the factually real strides made on behalf of tax cuts, increased numbers of jobs, and increased funding of education, as well as the advances made on social issues.”
“One example is Governor Brownback’s leadership in creating the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, a serious model for governors across the country to copy,” Christensen said. “It promotes ethical ways to advance science and produce treatments for Americans suffering from so many diseases, and is already treating patients for serious conditions.”
Brownback's troubles with other Republicans can be traced at least as far back as mid-2012. At the time, fiscally and socially conservative groups helped oust several moderate Republicans, which led to the tax and pro-life policies enacted in 2012 and afterward. However, the budget deficit combined with a bond rating drop by Moody's Investors Service left critics outraged.
Jim Yonally, chairman of the anti-Brownback group Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, told LifeSiteNews his group is made up of “former legislators or state party officials.” He told LifeSiteNews that while the organization has not endorsed Davis, “many of our members, as individuals, have.
“As for the topic of abortion, we have never discussed it,” said Yonally.
“It's not that we don't care about abortion. It's just that we think there are more pressing issues in Kansas,” he said, citing “a fair tax system,” educational funding, and the political appointment process as “our major challenges.”
Wint Winters of Republicans for Kansas Values, which is also publicly critical of Brownback, told LifeSiteNews that “the issue of pro-life or pro-choice is not really a defining issue for Kansans.” He said that there are 10 issues as to why his group stands with Davis, and “none of them relate to abortion.”
“The abortion issue is important to the people of Kansas, and to certain members of our group, but that's not what brought this group together. What brought this group together is concern about taxes and the budget,” he said.
Most of the 100 backers are no longer elected officials, including some have been ousted since Brownback entered office. Kansas.com reports that the Executive Director of the GOP in Kansas, Clay Barker, called the support for Davis “sour grapes.”
A Rasmussen poll conducted last week showed Davis leading Brownback by 10 points, with support from 30 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of self-described conservatives. The race has been categorized as “Safe Democrat” by Rasmussen.
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Brownback supporters note that the U.S. Congress' Joint Economic Committee shows that as of June 2014, Kansas' unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, well below the national average of 6.1 percent that month. But critics such as the editorial board of the The Kansas City Star, point to how Kansas' job growth has been poor compared to other states.